What is Delve?
Delve is a new service in Office 365 that is designed to assist in discovering information that is relevant to you from within your organizations Office 365 tenant. Selecting the home screen in the Delve tile will show you a screen filled with tiles that link to documents throughout your Office 365 tenant.
Delve is a discovery tool designed to assist you in finding information that is relevant to you and your job. The marketing tag line for Delve is “Search reimagined”, which tells us a lot about what Microsoft’s goal for Delve is.
Above I said Delve is a “discovery” tool, and I choose that word over using “search” on purpose. While there is some search functionality within Delve, the thrust of it is not you knowing what you are looking for and trying to find it. The main function of Delve is showing you things you might be interested in that you do not already know about.
On the right-hand side of the Delve screen you’ll see a list of people.
The “Home” screen is the main Delve interface. It shows you “Cards” which are summaries of different documents.
This is the spot where I would like to put in a screenshot of the main Delve interface. The problem with putting up that screenshot is that Delve dives into your Office 365 tenant and shows you all kind of different documents. I really can’t put up a screenshot of my Delve screen without showing you a whole bunch of file that I’s rather not paste all over the internet. I’m going to put in some screenshots, but I do need to be a little bit careful about that.
Back to what Delve is…
You can click on any of these people and see documents that they have been using and/or are relevant to them. If you click on the “me” button, it will show you documents you have recently accessed.
So where does Delve get all this information? The Office Graph.
What is Office Graph?
Office Graph is the “intelligence engine” behind Delve. Office Graph is the thing in the back ground that is searching through your Office 365 tenant and producing all the information that exposed via Delve. Power BI is another feature of Office 365 that takes advantage of Office Graph.
I’m not going to go into a deep exploration of Office Graph here. I mostly bring it up because there is a lot of non-Microsoft information out there where Office Graph and Delve are referred to as the same thing. They are not the same thing. Office Graph is the thing that feeds information to Delve. Delve is the user interface.
What problem is Microsoft trying to solve?
To understand Delve, you need to understand what Microsoft is trying to do with this application.
One constant in the IT world is that there is going to be more “I” (information) every year. I think it is safe to say that at this point, most organizations have more data in their IT infrastructure than most users can reasonably follow. Delve was envisioned to give users a way to discover information that is relevant to them without having to spend huge amounts of time searching through a bunch of stuff that they have no interest in.
What problem does Microsoft introduce with Delve?
Whenever Microsoft talks about Delve, they are very careful to say that Delve will always respect assigned permissions and only show you documents and information to which you already have access. While this is as it should be, there are a couple of problems that can arise.
The first problem is with SharePoint site administrators. One would expect if you are going to have SharePoint sites, then you are going to have at least one SharePoint administrator. SharePoint site administrators have full access to all the documents in the SharePoint libraries for which they are administrators. This means that if you have a HR SharePoint site, then someone outside of the HR department is probably going to have access to all those documents. Historically this person or persons are trusted not to go snooping around, but when you introduce Delve then Delve does the snooping around for you. Of course the solution is to keep separate accounts for administration and day-to-day work.
Another related problem with Delve is that permissions are not always maintained as well as they should be. If your organization becomes lax in maintaining permissions to SharePoint site and OneDrive stores, then users are going to start seeing things in Delve that they should not be.
Is Delve going to allow my employer (or anyone else) to “spy” on me?
Obviously Delve is working in the back ground to gather quit a lot of information about how and what you do all day. It builds a “picture” of what type of documents you are accessing, who you are interacting with, and what sort of things you are talking about with those people. It’s not terribly hard to imagine a future where Delve is looking at all your communications via Skype for Business Online, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and any other software you use within Office 365 to develop a “picture” of how “good” and employee you are. Taking that a step further, if all this information exists in a single place that might mean it can become available to more than just your employer. Potentially a hacker (or the NSA) could gain access to this information.
I would say while there is reason to be wary of this sort of information being used against you, we are still some ways away from the dystopian society of 1984. Really it all comes down to trust, and Microsoft has a lot of reasons to earn and keep your trust. If Microsoft cannot keep the trust of the community as a whole, then Office 365 is doomed to failure.
So, what is Delve again?
In re-reading what I have written so far, I’m not entirely sure I have answered that question. I also not entirely sure there is a good answer I can give.
Delve is a “pain of glass” within Office 365 that discovers information that the machine learning engine of Office Graph believes is going to be relevant to the daily duties of your job. Right now, I don’t see a whole lot of reason for me to spend much time with Delve. I just don’t think it is something that is going to improve my ability to do my job very much. Maybe at some point in the future it will evolve into something that I find useful.
Here is how I’d rate Delve.
The whole point of Delve is to discover information that can help you be better at your job. Delve seems to do an OK job of this, but its ability to do so is largely based on useful information existing someone in your Office 365 tenant.
Access Control: Non-existent
Except for the ability to disable Office graph (SharePoint admin centers > Settings > Office Graph) for your entire Office 365 tenant, there is really no way to control Delve. While “automation” is what Microsoft is going for, I expect that they are going to have to put enterprise quality access controls into these new features if they really expect them to take off in the enterprise.
Ease of use: Excellent
If Delve has one thing going for it, it’s simplicity. Very little configuration means what you see is what you get.
Again, what you see is what you get.
Targeted audience: Excellent
For good or for bad, Delve is absolutely targeted to you.
Time sensitivity: Incomplete
I’m not sure how to measure this one. When someone else creates a new document that is relevant to my job role, when is that going to show up on my Delve board?
Hybrid functionality: Non-existent
Delve is Office 365 only.
Again, there is no way to control what Delve does or does not see and report. If that is a problem for your organization, I suggest you turn off Office Graph.
Delve is potentially a new way to discover information within Office 365. It’s not for me, but maybe you’ll find some use in it.